THINKING ABOUT WHAT MATTERS
I am 75. I have graduated from high school, college, graduate school. Three graduations. All three accomplished before my 25th birthday. Each a source of pride and the culmination of quite a few years of hard work.
Some kids I know have graduated three times before they turned five. Two involving moving up a year in nursery school and the final graduating from nursery school to kindergarten. These will then most likely graduate from kindergarten to the first grade, from fourth grade to middle school, from middle school to high school and from high school to college. Some are also graduating from various Sunday School Classes.
So to answer the question, have graduations become meaningless: Yes, at least for many.
Another story. I was born in 1937. I was eight years old when World War II ended. I remember blackouts, the horror found when the gates of the concentration camps were opened, the greater horror of the A-bomb dropping. I also remember sugar rationing and that relates to too many graduations.
My mother bought my brothers and I one Hersey’s chocolate bar about every two weeks. We would get one or two squares a day.
As she doled out the squares, Mom always said, “Don’t chew. Let it melt in your mouth, that way the sweetness lasts.”
And that was an important lesson. But rationing held another lesson–that I realized when as a young adult I could eat a whole chocolate bar, gobble it down and get another right then and there. The specialness had faded. Yes, I still enjoyed the chocolate, but not the way I had as a child.
This applies to so much of life today. Toddlers going to Disney World, electric cars kids can drive as four year olds, the list is long and growing longer.
What’s a parent to do: Bucking the precious, over praising, over rewarding aspects of Western Society, early exposure to Disney World and the like is not easy. But there are a few things parents can do.
When you have a choice, I would hold back on the easy rewards as much as I can. The younger the child, the easier it is to by-pass some things. He won’t miss graduation day at nursery school. Instead of Disney World as a toddler aim for at least six or seven years old, even then the memory will probably fade. No electric cars, please.
Insist some things be worked for and worked for with some rigor. An allowance that is earned for jobs well done is a good start. We gave two allowances–a small one that we called “Love money” and a much larger earned allowance. There was a bonus for perfect behavior.
When I ran a group home, most of the girls turned tricks. They always seemed to have money. We had a weekly allowance based on behaviors. It became quickly obvious that the paltry allowance carried greater meaning than what they were given by the toughs in the neighborhood.
So my advice–reality check dreams, encourage real talent and hard work. Stress pride in the journey versus the happiness goal.
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